United Airlines has commemorated its 85th anniversary by unveiling an Airbus A320 painted in the airline’s 1970s-era livery at an employee celebration at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
“We are proud to celebrate United’s 85th anniversary with the more than 85,000 co-workers and thousands of retirees who have built the world’s leading airline,” said Jeff Smisek, United’s President & CEO.
Employee celebrations continue throughout the week as the plane, named the ‘Friend Ship’, visits other United and Continental hub airports, including Denver, San Francisco and Houston. Last year, United employees selected the Friend Ship, which features stripes of deep red and sky blue and a star pattern, from United’s historical liveries.
“The heart of my experience at United has been working with the people who make this airline great,” said Jack Lampe, a 51-year veteran of United and Capital Airlines, which merged with United in 1961. During his career, Lampe performed most airport operations functions, and is widely credited for leading the industry in anti-icing capabilities. “We can be proud of our accomplishments and the service we’ve delivered for the past 85 years.”
United’s history began on 6 April 6, 1926, when a small Swallow biplane owned by Walter Varney completed the first airmail delivery, landing in Nevada. Varney then founded Varney Air Service in 1926 after acquiring an airmail contract. He later sold the company to United Aircraft and Transport, which would change its name to United Air Lines in 1933.
The new United flies more than 150 million customers each year, equal to about half the population of the US, with 5,675 daily departures from nearly 375 airports.